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How to Heal Avoidant Attachment Style

How to Heal Avoidant Attachment Style

Background

People with avoidant attachment styles have a tendency to stay away from intimacy or to diminish the importance of relationships. They often were neglected: left alone too much as children, rejected by their caregivers, or their parents weren’t present enough (or only present when teaching them some type of task). Those with avoidant attachment have disconnected from their attachment system, so reconnecting to others in safe and healthy ways is extremely important.

For a child who is supposed to be nurtured and soothed by their caregivers, having no one to reach out for having those needs met is terrifying. And, to stay alive, the child learned to repress those needs and pretend like they don’t have any simply because there was no one there to respond to them.

I know that having these survival mechanisms might have contributed to you finding no reasons for building a long-lasting relationship. And by all means, that is a personal choice we all can make.

But my mission here is to share with you the reason why romantic relationships can be nourishing and can actually enhance our good traits, because you probably may be thinking about all the reasons why romantic relationships are actually a distraction and a lot of work. Even the most successful people say they could not be where they are without the secure base provided by their partners. Tony Robbins, the international coach, public speaker and philanthropist who helps millions of couples repair their relationships mentioned in an interview how his wife Sage offers him the safety and security that enabled him to carry on ruthlessly in his professional career. He is one of the millions of examples available that shows us true love replenishes us and creates a safe base for us to thrive and develop our innate strength and capacities.

Blocks

Some of the people with avoidant tendencies are looking for a relationship and might feel like their intention is to find a good partner for them, yet the only problem is that they cannot find that good enough partner. What happens here is that even though the need for a relationship may come up, we subconsciously still find a way to sabotage it. The way we can do this is by looking for reasons why no partner is good enough, finding ourselves ending every relationship at the first small bump in the road. This is because when we look to escape love no matter what, we will find many opportunities to do so. The work is learning to love people despite their flaws, as no human being on this planet is perfect.

Another trait commonly seen with avoidant attachment style might be the fact they may be unaware of their needs. Let’s not forget that they had to repress their basic needs and emotions early on, so they are so used to repressing them that they lost touch with what they want and what their needs are.

If you have this attachment style, it is understandable why you repressed your needs and felt overwhelmed with how much your caregivers sometimes burdened you with their emotional turmoil. And this is why you are so terrified by people who seem to want it all from you. Because it felt terrifying back then.

But I want you to know that staying alive is no longer the only goal. You can thrive and you can enjoy receiving and giving a love that is balanced and nourishing. I know that love seemed draining so far, but that was simply because you had to keep it all together and not let yourself feel. Because, how could your inner child think it’s safe to feel when he or she never had those feelings acknowledged and seen early on?

I promise you that romantic love can be nourishing.

I want you to know that sharing these tendencies is simply for awareness purposes – we cannot change what we are unaware of. We all have some insecure traits on a spectrum so please do not feel like there is something wrong with you.

Here are a few steps to begin healing avoidant attachment:

• Understand and come to terms with the fact that the lack of care you received was unfair. But what you do from here is within your power
• Know there is no perfect partner that is going to be exactly what you need. Everyone will have flaws. You just need to differentiate between flaws and red flags. We all love someone who has flaws, and that is okay. We all have our dark side.
• Know that you are going to feel like wanting to run away when you will get close to someone. Your tendency will be to find flaws in them – that will be your weapon to feel at peace with the fact that you want and may run away
• Look at all the reasons why this attachment style is no longer serving you – we all need deep connection and this attachment style may push people away that actually might have been that special someone for you.

You have been hurt. I see you. I feel your pain. That was not right and a child should never have to go through that. You were just a child and you needed to be allowed to have needs.

If you want to learn more on attachment styles, the attachment course comprises all the tools to heal your attachment trauma, to reprogram your beliefs around love and to heal the pursuer distancer dynamic, there is a container teaching you exactly this here: https://mindfultricks.teachable.com/p/how-to-heal-insecure-attachment-styles

With all the love
Sorina

 

How To Heal Anxious Attachment Style

How To Heal Anxious Attachment Style

People with ambivalent or anxious attachment deal with a lot of anxiety in relationships. Their caregivers showed them love in an inconsistent way, the reason why they never knew when they will get their needs met, and when they will not, leaving them hypervigilant and insecure.

Having suffered actual abandonment or experienced the death of their caregiver, they can be overly aware of any hint of abandonment, which activates their defense mechanisms, sending them into the fight, flight or even freeze response. That means that at the slightest change in their partner’s behavior their defense mechanisms will show up in an attempt to keep them alive, leaving little room for the rational brain to come online (it can be even a slight shift in the way their partner responds or behave).

The tendency for those anxiously attached is to reach out to their partner to get comforted. Growing up with caregivers that were meeting their needs at times (maybe when they were crying louder or when they threw a tantrum), they learned that their needs can and should be met by others. As infants, they did not feel safe enough to explore the surroundings because they were afraid that if they are not hypervigilant and instead will go exploring, their parents will not be there when they will return.

This healthy exploration creates the idea that the world is safe enough for us to explore it. Without this foundation, we grow up hypervigilant and wary of people’s intentions.

A secure child not only has the foundation to go out and explore the world but is also taught how to self-soothe and process their own emotions by having a parent who is attuned with them (not one that takes over their emotional turbulence). In other words, an anxious parent will be distressed when the child is distressed, while a secure parent will hold space for the child’s emotions and bring them to a sense of calm instead of borrowing their emotional state.

The fact that people with an anxious tendency did not receive healthy modeling of how to deal with their emotions yet had their needs met at times, left them craving outside safety and soothing without allowing them to learn how to comfort and self-soothe themselves.

As I always say, these are simply adaptations. It’s the way we’ve learned to survive and it takes time and conscious effort to teach our nervous system that we are safe now.

Since for us, those with anxious attachment, rejection, and abandonment meant that our lives were in danger, the healing occurs when we teach our nervous system that losing a partner is no longer a threat to our survival. We are adults and we now have the tools to not only stay alive, but create a life where love is nourishing and stable. Where we are comfortable with knowing that even if our partner will leave, we will be more than okay.

“Yes, But . . .”

I loved the adaptation Diane Poole Heller talks about in The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships book. She talks about the “Yes, but” response that we develop as a survival response. As a child with unreliable parents, if you take in those rare moments of love and support, you open yourself up to a lot of additional pain when the abandonment happens later. So you learn to overlook the good things that feel too threatening. This continues in love relationships where even if the situation has drastically changed, your attachment system doesn’t know this. Our job is to be aware of this tendency and know that we have to be intentional in observing what our partner does good. I suggest starting a gratitude journal or keeping a notebook close to write down whenever your partner does something you appreciate. This way, whenever you feel like you tend to think that they never do something good or that they don’t love you, you have all the proof that says otherwise.

How to start healing this attachment style?

Our inner child needs the soothing they never had from the caregiver. To show up as our adult, healthy and loving self, we have to learn to provide that soothing to them when we feel triggered. To remember it’s not our partner’s responsibility to soothe us, but ours.

The moment we feel the abandonment and rejection kicking in – we have to pause. The stories about how we will end up alone and abandoned will keep on going. But the adult inside of us can take control.

Your mission is to show your inner child that YOU won’t abandon him/her. That’s all they want to know. And no one besides you will ever be able to provide them the love and comfort that they expect from you, the now adult.

After you feel calm again, take a piece of paper and write down similar affirmations, while holding the image of your inner child in mind:

You are safe now with me
I will always be here to hold you when you are scared
I won’t ever turn my back to you when you feel alone
I will always have your back when you need me
My partner’s rejection is not a direct reflection of my worth

In time, you will learn that self-love is not outsourced. No one can give us self love and validation, and that’s what we need the most. You’ll learn to be rejected and not feel abandoned.

I’ll say that again – We can all be rejected without feeling abandoned. Actually, we can be rejected and know it has nothing to do with our worth.

Don’t forget – the more we detach ourselves from our attachment tendencies and we can see them as the child within us who just wants love and protection, the more we are able to work with, not against our attachment style.

If you want to learn more on attachment styles, the attachment course comprises all the tools to heal your attachment trauma, to reprogram your beliefs around love and to heal the pursuer distancer dynamic, there is a container teaching you exactly this here: https://mindfultricks.teachable.com/p/how-to-heal-insecure-attachment-styles

6 foundations of a healthy relationship

6 foundations of a healthy relationship

What are the secrets to creating happy and healthy relationships?

While on the outside it looks like some couples have the secrets to a happy relationship, the truth is they just found better ways of dealing with the problems that cross their path compared to the ones who seem to fight all the time. Of course, it takes a lot of knowledge, patience and understanding to create a happy and fulfilling relationship, especially for those who grew up in an environment where they did not see an example of a loving relationship. However, there are some keys that if practiced by both partners, can lead to a happier and more fulfilling relationship. Let’s see what are some of them:

Getting to know each other’s needs

Getting to know each other’s needs and respecting those needs is fundamental in a relationship. Each one of us has a love language in regard to what actions make them feel really loved. Some people are more sensitive to gifts and actions, some to physical touch, others to time spent together while some respond to encouraging words. There might be some who value when their independence in the relationship is respected, or when they are genuinely understood. Gary Chapman wrote The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, a book that outlines five ways to express and experience love that Chapman calls “love languages”: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch. According to this theory, each person has one primary and one secondary love language.

Many people are used to showing love the way they love receiving it, which can make them feel like they are never doing enough to please their partner. By learning your partner’s primary need and showing your love the way they want to receive it, you help them understand they are not only loved, but accepted for whom they really are and that their needs are important to you.

Repairing what needs to be fixed

People in successful relationship focus on solving the conflict in a wise yet timely manner, while focusing on the partner’s needs. This means having transparency in regard to the issues that arise, and solving them quickly.

It’s important to know there are a lot of unsolvable problems in relationships. Actually, according to Marriage and Family counselor Dr. John Gottman, 69% of marriage conflicts are never solved. Yep!

So how do happy couples fight? They just find healthy ways in reducing these conflicts as much as possible. If the goal is to be happy and peaceful together, it’s important to choose your battles wisely and know which ones to let go. For the conflicts that can be solved, however, compromise is the key.

Reciprocity

Having the shared goal of creating a happy relationship where both partners feel equally important takes two. Unfortunately, this is the one key you cannot apply by yourself. It takes two to tango, and to create a happy relationship as well. Highly functioning couples take turns in reminding each other the promises they made and work together in putting the other first. This unselfish way of treating a relationship creates a place for everyone’s needs to be taken care of: If I am putting you first, and you are putting me first, then we know everyone’s needs are taken care of, leaving no space for selfishness.

Communication

We all know communication is key in relationships, but what if we don’t know how to communicate?

Of course, not everyone might know how to communicate wisely and be comfortable sharing their feelings, especially to their loved one. Fear of conflict, judgment and being misunderstood might stop people from sharing their dissatisfactions towards their partners. By creating a safe space where both partners know they are listened to and where their feeling are taken seriously, people can overcome their fears and share their honest frustrations.

What’s important to know here is that miscommunication starts when instead of trying to solve the problems, partners come off as attacking. An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue (or behavior), and be soft on the person and firm on the issue. An ineffective communicator will do the opposite – he or she will literally “get personal” by attacking the person, while minimizing or ignoring the issue. When partners learn how to communicate by saying “what you did made me feel unimportant” instead of “you are so selfish for not listening to me”, they are able to focus on the issue rather than just making their partner feel guilty. Attacking the partner will not end the fight, but will put them in a vulnerable position where they will have to defend themselves from the blames. Needless to say this will not solve the conflict, but it will create further problems in the relationship.

Learning about both yours and your partner’s attachment style

For those who are not familiar, I wrote here about attachment style and how to relate to them. An attachment pattern is the way we get attached to someone in an intimate relationship, or, even more specific, the way we act when we start feeling close or intimate in a romantic relationship. Respecting our partner’s attachment style and acting towards their needs is a huge step to overcome relationship challenges. Knowing when to provide space to an avoidant partner or reassurance to an anxious one can make or break a relationship.

Fight better, not less

Conflicts can never be avoided, so we know that they will arise even in the happiest relationships. This is why the focus shifts from fighting less, to fighting better. Fighting better is about having discussions, not arguments. It is about trying to hear your partner’s needs and discussing about it until you both reach a shared vision on how things might work for both of you, on what’s doable and what’s not.

However, there will be days when you’ll not fight as smart as you want to, and that’s okay. Maybe you’ll sometimes go to sleep angry, and that will feel wrong. Accepting there can be tough times in a relationship when you might not agree on anything and knowing you’ll eventually come back to each other after the storm passes is one big lesson long-term couples learn on their journey together. No one can do these perfectly all the time, and most relationships have issues in some dimensions.

 

 

 

 

The key to relationship success

The key to relationship success

Now that we know the meaning of an attachment style in relationships, let’s find out what the main attachment styles need in order to feel secure within an intimate relationship. It’s important to know that by showing compassion towards us and our partner we can find ways together to communicate better and feel safe within our relationship.

For a short recap, an attachment pattern is the way we get attached to someone in an intimate relationship, or, even more specific, the way we act when we start feeling close or intimate in a romantic relationship. Know how sometimes you just met someone and you are excited to be in a relationship, but the more intimate and vulnerable you become with them, the more you start acting in ways that changed from who you were when you did not feel as close to that person? That’s the attachment in action, and it was created in our early life by our caregiver. Some of us received a secure love and felt confident enough to explore the surroundings on their own, so they grew to have a secure attachment, some of us had caregivers who did not meet their emotional needs and have developed an avoidant attachment pattern, and some received an insecure love as infants, reason why they have an anxious attachment.

The more we get to understand these patterns, the more we can understand why some people act in certain ways. Some are not even aware of their attachment pattern and are just justifying it rationally – an anxiously attached person will say they are not getting enough love, so they are justified to always ask for more, and an avoidant partner will start looking for deal breakers as soon as they get close to a someone they start feeling intimate with, in order to end the relationship before they feel too vulnerable.

Having this inner preset that dictates our behavior is no easy thing, as ultimately everyone wants and deserves love as well a healthy and fulfilling relationship, and sometimes feel stuck not knowing how to get there. As mentioned before, with self-compassion we can become conscious of the patterns we have and lean towards learning how to earn a secure attachment.

Now let’s see what’s the language and behavior we need to learn in order to understand a bit better an attachment pattern in action. I personally like to see someone’s attachment pattern as their inner child and approach them as careful as I would approach a scared baby so I can find out what they’re scared of and eventually let them know they are safe.

The avoidant attachment

Whenever feeling too vulnerable towards someone, the avoidant will retreat by shutting down emotions or avoid getting too close, in an attempt to avoid vulnerability. As children, they might have experienced neglect or felt as their environment was an unsafe place for them to express themselves and their needs. This situation created for them the need to be extremely independent and heal they own wounds, knowing that asking for help from someone will be seen as inappropriate. This is the reason why they know asking for love will only make them hurt, as they never received it from their own caregivers. While having an argument they feel the same need of having some space – they cannot calm down within the discussion, so they need time and space in order to self-soothe themselves as they did back when they were infants as well.

 

What does an avoidant partner need in a relationship?

As mentioned, whenever having a discussion or fight, the avoidant partner might need to retreat in order to think clearly. In a relationship between a person with an anxious attachment and a person with an avoidant attachment, this action might trigger the fear of abandonment towards the anxious partner. With communication and understanding, both partners might understand that whenever things are escalating, they will need a break. By openly communicating the need for a calm conversation and avoiding saying hurtful things in the heat of the moment, both partners will see improvements in the confidence they have in the relationship. It’s important to set a time to revisit the conversation – might be a few minutes or an hour later, so things are not left unsolved. Of course, it takes time and practice to be able to do this, but by applying it you know you are actively taking steps towards a happy relationship, and who’s right or wrong doesn’t matter in the overall equation.

As the anxious partner to an avoidant one, patience is the number one skill you’ll learn along the way. The pushier an anxious person becomes, the more the avoidant person will try to run away. Learning to respect your partner’s needs for distance will only bring them closer and pushing them away when they need distance the most will only make them retreat even more.

As soon as you will practice giving them the needed space, you’ll be able to see them coming towards you when feeling safe. Just as a child who approaches a stranger who might look dangerous, the avoidant partner will explore how safe it is to get close to you. When you will not come towards them but will give them enough time and support to explore the surroundings, they will make the courage to come towards you and not run as they were used to do. Let your partner know you are safe to get close to, and that they can approach you whenever they feel confident.

The anxious attachment

A person with an anxious attachment is often characterized by the need for constant reassurance and approval. When feeling insecure in a relationship, their nervous system becomes hard to calm down and they find it even harder to self-soothe themselves, unlike the avoidant partners. They cannot stand uncertainty, so they reach out to their partners to emotionally regulate them. When they are not getting the needed reassurance, they might take actions that might seem counterintuitive like distancing themselves from their partners in order to get their partners to chase them, or escalate a fight in the need to get some certainty. The brain of an anxiously attached person often sounds like this “Please give us reassurance. Pick a fight, end the relationship, do anything for certainty, just don’t settle in this horrible uncertainty. ” They need to be certain they are loved, that they are cared for and that they are not in an unstable environment.

What does an anxious partner need in a relationship?

The people with an anxious attachment have learned to regulate their emotional distress by relying on a partner who has learned to be more responsive and emotionally available. Their parents and/or caregivers were inconsistently attuned to them. Attachment researchers describe the behavior of these adults, noting how at times they are nurturing, attuned and respond effectively to their child’s distress, while at other times they are intrusive, insensitive or emotionally unavailable. Therefore, when parents oscillated between these two different responses, their children become confused and insecure, not knowing what kind of treatment to expect.

These children often feel distrustful or suspicious of their parent, but they act clingy and desperate. They learn that the best way to get their needs met is to cling to their attachment figure and hope to get their emotional state regulated by the adult.

Therefore, what anxiously-attached people need is co-regulation. The inner child of an anxious person is the child who always wants attention and love. If you would be the parent, would you turn your back to the baby asking to be held? Of course not. This doesn’t mean that you will become their parent instead of their partner. But by letting them know how loved they are and how important they are to you, you are sustaining an important process for them to heal – co-regulation. You are letting them know you are there for them and are open to a calm, more rational discussion of the issue they might want to address, and that you are not going anywhere. People with an anxious attachment have a deep fear of abandonment, reason why any action that might lead to this conclusion will shake them to the core. This is mostly because when they were infants their life was depending on that adult, and their inner child still sees abandonment as a life-threatening issue.

As a partner, being able to feel empathy towards the inner child hiding inside your partner and understanding their attachment style might help you approach them with more compassion and love next time they feel hurt. Instead of digging more holes that push you further away from them, approach them with care and talk to their inner child, letting them know they are safe and genuinely cared for.

 

Getting to know your attachment style – The key to relationship success

Getting to know your attachment style – The key to relationship success

Our attachment style is one characteristic that might draw us to specific partners, or, in some cases, make it hard for us to maintain long-term, fulfilling relationships. This is why getting to know our attachment patterns can explain our behavior and needs and can give us the power to feel in control in our romantic relationships. The attachment is created in our early years of life and continues to guide us through the relationships we have in adulthood, so it’s our duty as adults to step and rethink our emotional patterns that might not be beneficial in the long run.

Attachment is mostly about the way we need our emotional needs to be met. The person who is preponderantly securely attached will have a stable way of relating to a loved one, willing to meet both their own and their partner’s needs. On the other hand, when it comes to the anxious or avoidant attachment pattern, the person might need more attention than the secure one, or, in the case of the avoidant one, more space.

Getting to know our attachment style helps us know why we need what we need on an emotional level. Most of the people with an avoidant attachment end up having a relationship with an anxiously attached person, and that’s where miscommunication starts. The anxiously attached will be in need of confirmations and more affection than a securely attached one, while the avoidant ones will withdraw whenever feeling like there is too much needed from their side.

So let’s see what are the main attachment styles:

Secure Attachment – People with a secure attachment have received a secure love and care in their early life. Their parents weren’t suffocating nor unresponsive to their needs, but they provided the right amount of attention and care, reason why they feel independent and confident to explore the world on their own. A person with a secure attachment has satisfying relationships that promote both partner’s freedom, being open to communicating their feelings and happy to resolve any conflict that comes on the way. They are responsive when their partner is asking for help, and confidently reach out to their partner asking for comfort when feeling distressed.

Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment – People with an anxious attachment were neglected by their caregiver during infancy, and the adults were not able to emotionally regulate them properly. The love received back then had a pattern of give-and-take, so they never had a secure base to be confident enough to go explore the world on their own. When in an emotional relationship, they often need an emotional hunger looks like a never-ending need for reassurance. Even though this need feels like an action that needs to be taken in order to feel that the ground is safe and they can become independent, they might look insecure or desperate, which leads to receiving the opposite – pushing away their partner. The gap comes from unhealthy patterns of thinking such as the idea that they don’t deserve love or no one is ever going to accept them the way they are, reason why they unconsciously sabotage the relationship with  their insecurities, in a self-fulfilling prophecy that validates their distortions related to love (e.g. you shouldn’t trust anyone, everyone will disappoint you, you have to be cautious so you don’t get hurt”).

Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment – Having one or both parents unavailable, people in this category are uncomfortable with closeness and primarily value independence and freedom to an extend that they might convince themselves they don’t need anyone by their side. They learned to play the role of the parent, so they feel self-sufficient and feel as if it’s dangerous to rely on someone, since they might leave at any time. They usually withdraw emotionally easily and find it hard to get too emotionally close to someone. They often have emotionally unavailable partners and tend to run away when feeling there’s too much intimacy being asked from their side. When meeting an anxious partner, they will feel as running away as fast as they can since the anxious one will over-try to solve and discuss problems, thing that will make them feel vulnerable and trapped.

Fearful-Avoidant Attachment – A person with a fearful avoidant attachment lives in an ambivalent state, afraid of being both too close to or too distant from others. They often feel stuck as they struggle with the fear of abandonment when the partner is cold, and a fear of commitment when the partner is too close. This might make them feel powerless, as they try to satisfy the need from intimacy, but one they do and feel they are getting close to someone, they feel like running away as soon as possible. This is one of the most difficult attachment styles as the person needs both intimacy and space, and cannot enjoy any of them without feeling a sense of impending doom.

So now that we might identify with one attachment style or see the predominant one for us, it’s important to know we don’t have to be stuck in this behavior forever. Everyone can work on having an “earned secure attachment”, which means learning how to become more secure and to work with your inner child who sometimes shows up and takes control of your behaviors.

All we need to know during this journey is that we are not wrong or faulty, but we received or lacked a love we had no control of. With self-love and self-compassion, we can find healthier ways to express our needs and interpret our emotions. 

How to heal

If you want to learn more on attachment styles, the attachment course comprises all the tools to heal your attachment trauma, to reprogram your beliefs around love and to heal the pursuer distancer dynamic, there is a container teaching you exactly this here: https://mindfultricks.teachable.com/p/how-to-heal-insecure-attachment-styles

 

 

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